As breathless as Days One and Two were at Cheltenham, the final two days of the 2019 meeting did not flatter to deceive, as more record crowds packed in to Prestbury Park and watch some exhilarating races.
No doubting the moment of the day here, as Frodon stormed to victory under jockey Bryony Frost (duo pictured above) – the first ever female to win a Grade 1 race at Cheltenham. There was barely a dry eye in the house as Frodon took control of the race, pinging the fences and though looking beat at the last, fought on bravely up the Cheltenham hill to claim the race from Aso, with Road to Respect in 3rd. Frost then gave possibly the most emotive series of interviews thereafter in racing history, acknowledging the horse, the Paul Nicholls team and everyone bar herself as the achievement of the horse. It was a special moment that will live long in the memory.
Earlier, the Philip Hobbs trained Defi Du Seuil had won a thrilling JLT Novices Chase – seeing off Lostintranslation in a great battle. Barry Geraghty winning there in the JP McManus colours – and he didn’t have to wait long for another winning for JP – Sire Du Berlais just holding off the charging Tobefair in the Pertemps Hurdle Final – the next race on the card. Paisley Park won, as expected, the Stayers Hurdle in maybe not the strongest renewal of the race, but one that always takes some winning. Lizzie Kelly claimed another winner for the ladies, riding Sirah Du Lac to victory, before an amazing race that, on the Tricast (first three home) paid £73,711…the Mullins trained Eglantine Du Seuil coming in at 50/1. Mark Walsh claimed the last, riding Any Second Now to victory
Friday at Cheltenham is simply known as Gold Cup day….the biggest race of the year. The 2019 race was considered a very open race, with a host of horses with great chances starting the race – which was dramatic from the off as big Irish fancy Kemboy crashed out at the first. Another Irish raider, Presenting Percy, whom went off favourite, never really got into a rhythm or the race, and made no real impression throughout. 2018 runner up Might Bite lead them along, but he soon fell away, and it seemed the defending champion Native River could well defend under champion jockey Richard Johnson. But the dangers loomed large 4 out, with Anibale Fly and Al Boum Photo taking control of the race. It was the latter, under Paul Townend and again for Willie Mullins, who finished the best and ran off with the race, eventually winning by nearly three lengths from Anibale Fly, with Bristol De Mai a respectable, but strung out third. It was a great win for Al Boum Photo (pictured above) who was respected more than really fancied going into the race – his 12/1 odds showing there wasn’t that much confident about him.
Again, the feeling was that the race wasn’t the strongest on record, but connections of the winner will not care a jot about that.
Earlier, Pentland Hills won for the formidable duo of Nicky Henderson and Nico De Boinville in the opening race, the JCB Triumph Hurdle. Ch’tibello won for the Skelton brothers in the County Handicap Hurdle before Rachael Blackmore continued the fantastic showing for the fairer sex in winning the Albert Bartlett hurdle in the race before the Gold Cup aboard 50/1 shot Minella Indo. Favourite Hazel Hill won the Foxhunters comfortably enough, before there was another huge priced winner…66/1 shot Croco Bay winning the Grand Annual. The last race of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival went to Early Doors – yet another winner in the J P McManus colours for the son of legendary jockey Jonjo O’Neill of the same name – riding for another son with a famous racing father – JP O’Brien.
Nico De Boinville was pronounced 2019 Cheltenham top jockey, with 3 wins, whilst Willie Mullins got the top trainer award – having 4 winners, 5 runners up and 4 thirds to point to that just saw him beat Nicky Henderson to the award (4-4-1).
It was a stunning weeks racing…some amazing performances and highlights, with thoughts now turning to the Grand National meeting in just a months time.